Errors in Wechsler Individual Achievement Test nonword reading subtest

May 24th, 2012

The Wechsler Individual Achievement Test – 2nd Ed (WIAT-II) is one of those tests that most psychologists and special education people have in their cupboard. Mostly this is because it is published by Psych Corp who market it well and because it covers a number of different curriculum areas so people don’t have to use/buy multiple tests.

I personally quite like the test. The norms are Australian and it does cover a range of skills/knowledge areas. I do have issues with the Listening Comprehension and Oral Expression subtests and wish they had included both irregular-and non-word reading and spelling subtests. The other issue I have with the WIAT-II is that there are real words in the Pseudoword (nonword) Decoding subtest.

The test was developed in America so they can perhaps be forgiven for thinking that ‘kip’ is a nonword. However, most English and Australians will recognise that a kip is a synonym for a quick nap.

Then we have the (non) words ‘scaw’ and ‘nesal’. Neither is a legal word when written in this way. However, when ‘sounded out’ as the test requires kids to do they produce the same name as ‘score’ and ‘nestle’. Note that ‘nesal’ can also be said as /neesal/. There is also the nonword ‘fum’ which seems to be a perfectly good nonword. However, many children who present for reading assessment have speech articulation errors. Many of them will still say the /f/ sound for /th/, that is they say ‘fum’ instead of ‘thumb’. Hence, when they decode ‘fum’ (correctly) they think they are saying a real word because /fum/ is how they say the real word ‘thumb’. (Hope that makes sense).

On face value this doesn’t seem like a big problem because kids still have to use sub-lexical decoding to arrive at the (non)word name. However, it potentially affects the child’s mental set. A mental set is the framework or strategy one uses to solve a problem. Before a child begins the task they are told that they are to read made up words and that even though they are made up words they can sound them out and say them like a real word.  Part of any good strategy would be to monitor the name produced by decoding to make sure it is a nonword and by definition not a real word. Yet for some children (those with /f/ /th/articulation issues) the very first item produces a real word name. This has to have an affect on their mental set and potentially an adverse affect on task performance.

I don’t quite understand how a company with as many resources as Psych Corp could have made these simple errors when there must be hundreds of legal nonwords that they could have used instead. One can only hope they will make changes for the 3rd edition.



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